Saturday, March 17, 2012

Childrens Movie Critique

This film presents a story about an orphaned baby boy, Tarzan, who is discovered and rescued by a female gorilla, Kala. The story takes place in Africa amongst a jungle setting focusing mainly on the gorillas and other animal’s lifestyle. This made it difficult to analyze for racism being as animal dynamics are far different that human dynamics. The main message that comes across in the family dynamics of the gorilla’s relationship towards Tarzan was the rejection of Tarzan being someone “different”. Tarzan’s position can be portrayed as a situation someone in a minority group may struggle with.

Tarzan constantly is searching from approval from Kurtchak, the dominant male gorilla of the pack and his adoptive father. Tarzan tries desperately to find his place in the pack by proving his skills to Kerchak. Kerchak is a darker, dominant gorilla that also is more aggressive than any of the other gorillas; this can show that darker people are mean. He becomes softer throughout the film and you come to understand that his aggressiveness was out of protection and he accepts and apologizes to Tarzan before he dies. Kerchak and Kala’s interaction with one and other is very sexist being as Kerchak is always the dominant one in the relationship, yet Kala shows forms of independence by keeping Tarzan even though he doesn’t want him and ignoring his commands or insults towards Tarzan.

When the humans, Jane, Professor Porter, and Clayton come into the jungle and new problem comes about in the form of separation. Now let’s remember this is a film about animal and human interaction; there will always be boundaries. Some people may say that the fact that the gorillas want nothing to do with the humans and avoid them is a form of segregation; however I don’t see it that way. I simply see it as humans being something foreign and scary to the gorillas so they want to maintain a distance. And in the end they learn to accept the humans anyways. This article:  speaks about how there are no African Americans in this film, yet it is set in Africa; and according to Bertram Rothschild the gorillas take the place of African Americans in this film. Rothschild writes about the caging of the gorillas and how that symbolizes the capture of African Americans for slavery; which is a reasonable observation. I view this film a little less intentional than that. Capturing of gorillas is a realistic scenario, and the only reason why the gorillas speak and have humanistic actions is because it’s an animated Disney film. Everyone has their own perception and views on this matter; I just disagree with Rothschild’s view.
Jane is an interesting character in this film because when she makes her first appearance she embodies and proper English woman who is unsuited for the jungle. And the males are leading the group while she struggles behind them which is a sexist undertone.

Yet she learns the ways of the jungle life and he shows her the beauty of the jungle which in the end shifts her towards becoming less of a stereotypical proper woman. Her personality changes as she learns more, and she ends up staying in the jungle with Tarzan because it makes her happy.

The struggle Tarzan has trying to find his identity once the humans enter the jungle becomes the main focus. He takes time learning through pictures how humans act and the human cultures; and he starts to mimic them. This is showing him trying to change and fit in with people like him and he starts to lose the values and traits of being a “gorilla”. Ultimately Tarzan is faced with the decision to choose one or the other, he finds a compromise with maintaining the things he has learned from Jane and the professor while remaining in the jungle with his gorilla pack. Parts of this struggle can be perceived as Jane and the professor trying to erase Tarzans “culture” to have him become a human and be where he belongs. Even as a child I picked up on that from watching this movie.

Along with his struggle of finding his identity his adoptive mother, Kala, tries to instill a very important message when she discovers him looking at himself in the water and hitting his reflection, then covering himself in mud. Tarzan says “Why am I so different?” Kala responds “Look at me, and do you know what I see? Two eyes, two ears, a nose and two hands…”
Tarzan notices the difference and becomes discouraged. Kala then says “Forget what you see, what do you feel?” And places his hand on his chest, Tarzan says “My heart”. Then she lifts him to her chest and has his listen to her heart “your heart” he says. This comforts Tarzan and makes him feel accepted and alike with Kala and the other gorillas. This shows equality in the form of being a living thing with a heartbeat, no matter how different you may be on the outside.  

 This is the most important part of the movie to me, and it focuses on these important messages for most of the movie. What I think children take away from this film, is humor with the funny characters, male dominance with Kerchak, cultural differences and the struggle between them, and an overall lesson of learning to find yourself; whether it be Jane discovering she is happy with Tarzan in the jungle, or Tarzan finding that he is happy being a human in a gorillas world. When my sister and I watched this movie when we were younger, we loved the scenes with Kala and Tarzan and still to this day those are our favorite parts. I hope most children look past the racial and sexist undertones and take away the message the film presents with being loved for who you are no matter how different you may be.


  1. Very nice critique. You bring up the main issues regarding racism and sexism in the film. I agree that the most touching moments are with Kala and Tarzan. Good use of graphics. Missing original film release date.

  2. I also enjoyed your critique. This was one of my (now 16) son's favorite movies. I always enjoyed the music in all the Disney movies and never considered the undertones of sterotypical messaging. I think like many parents before learning about "white privilage" I would have said "It is just a movie - stop overthinking". I know now that is a simplistic view of life. You might say that I, like Jane, am changing after learning more about the value of cultural awareness.

  3. My family and I also like this movie. We like the music and the story line. However, now that I'm aware of the sterotypical implications and the racism that takes place its hard to enjoy the movie like I used to. Thanks for the great film critque.

  4. I love this movie. I watched it with my family and we really enjoyed it. I think that this is a good movie because we see some racism here, but there are also people who do not really care about cultural differences and just accept everyone the way they are. I think that this is an interesting a good movie for our kids because we should tell them to figure out who in this movie we should look up to the most. Amazing film critique. Good job.

  5. I love this movie as well. I do see that they are using racism even if it is a gorilla. Trying to find acceptance into any culture is hard.